Bosses can spy on your work messages, but must tell you first says EU's top court

Lynsey Barber
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Reading staff communications online is ok, as long as they know about it (Source: Getty)

Employers can monitor the email and online messages of staff at work an EU court has ruled, but they must alert staff beforehand.

The landmark finding comes after a long-running case was taken to Europe's highest court by a Romanian man fired for sending private messages via his professional Yahoo messaging account.

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The European Court of Human Rights today supported the mans assertion that his privacy had not been protected because no notice had been given that his communications at work were being monitored.

The man was fired 10 years ago for messaging family members while at work and the company used print outs of the messages as evidence that he had breached the rules.

He took the case to court in Romania and then Strasbourg, arguing that his privacy should have been protected under the European convention of human rights right to private life and correspondence laws.

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The claim had been struck down in both courts previously, with today's ruling coming from the highest level and the last option in the legal battle.

The grand chanmber of the court of European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in favour of the man and against the previous rulings by eleven votes to six.

The clarity brought by the ruling (read in full here) was welcomed by privacy campaigners.

"This Judgment is welcome. If employers are going to monitor their staff’s emails, they should explicitly tell them," said a spokesperson for Open Rights Group.

"In some industries email monitoring may be necessary, but companies should also consider whether other, less intrusive options would be more effective."

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